GOP lawmaker calls Trump protesters 'thugs'
© Getty

Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) took to the House floor on Tuesday to denounce the protesters who have been disrupting Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP nearing end game on immigration votes Tech companies scramble as sweeping data rules take effect Comey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up MORE’s campaign rallies.

Duncan, who has not endorsed any presidential candidate, cited a poll mentioned on MSNBC showing that Trump had gained support since the tense protests last Friday in Chicago prompted the GOP front-runner to cancel a planned rally.

“These anti-free speech thugs and their leftist supporters should realize that all they did was make Donald Trump more popular,” Duncan said in his brief House floor remarks.

Duncan pointed out the comparatively low level of disruptions at events for Democratic candidates Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonComey: Trump's 'Spygate' claims are made up Clapper: Trump distorting my comments is Orwellian Mueller probing Roger Stone's finances: report MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTrump: ‘Clapper has now admitted there was spying on my campaign’ Overnight Defense: Trump decision on Korea summit coming 'next week' | China disinvited from major naval exercise | Senate sends VA reform bill to Trump Senate sends major VA reform bill to Trump's desk MORE (I-Vt.).

“It was sad to see such hateful intolerance on public display this past Friday. And I’m pleased that no conservatives are doing things like this to Clinton or Sanders rallies,” Duncan said.

While Duncan focused on the protesters, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanThree House Dems say they'll oppose immigration floor vote over possible wall funding Dems after briefing: 'No evidence' spy placed in Trump campaign Senate approves new sexual harassment policy for Congress MORE has encouraged Trump to take responsibility for unrest at his rallies. Ryan told a Wisconsin radio station on Monday that “candidates need to take responsibility for the environment at their events.”

At the same time, the Speaker said the protesters share some of the blame, saying “there’s obviously an effort by some on the left to shut down these rallies and to stir unrest.”

In another sign that the incidents at Trump rallies are troubling GOP leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell says he backs Mueller probe after classified briefing Overnight Finance: Trump signs Dodd-Frank rollback | Snubs key Dems at ceremony | Senate confirms banking regulator | Lawmakers lash out on Trump auto tariffs Senate Dems’ campaign chief ‘welcomes’ midterm support from Clintons MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday that he personally urged Trump to condemn the violence.

One Trump supporter, who is white, was arrested last week for punching a black protester in the face at a North Carolina rally. And on Saturday, a man tried to rush on stage toward Trump at a rally in Ohio. 

Not all Republicans are putting the pressure on Trump. Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) wrote in a blog post this week that Trump’s remaining GOP primary rivals shouldn’t blame the front-runner for the violence at rallies.

“Piling on the frontrunner is a rich political tradition, but to rationalize attempts to stifle free speech is not a Republican tradition and I suspect will serve to strengthen the standing of Donald Trump,” Cramer, who has not endorsed anyone, wrote.

“I hope more Republican leaders condemn those who would deny free speech to Donald Trump and defend those interested in hearing him,” he concluded.